Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Buried with Bush
The WaPo's Fred Hiatt does a nice ulogy for the many ills wrought by George W. Bush:
As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world.

But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.

Bush most likely lost his last chance to weave compassion into domestic policy last week when he could not persuade his party to put people ahead of fences in immigration reform. And while a shard of compassionate conservatism survives in his foreign-aid budgets and support for AIDS patients in Africa, these will come under increasing pressure from the fiscal squeeze that Bush has designed.

Overall, in fact, compassionate conservatism was an early casualty of Bush's fiscal policy, which tilted the tax code toward the wealthy at a time of rising inequality, forced the government to devote increasing sums to pay interest on the national debt and ensured that less and less would be available for social programs for the vulnerable.

Unlike compassionate conservatism, democracy promotion was of no interest to Bush when he ran for president. He embraced the idea after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he has had little success: Iraq and Afghanistan remain at war, tentative gains for democracy in the Mideast have been reversed, and autocracies in the former Soviet Union, China, Iran and elsewhere are emboldened. Not surprisingly, polls show increasing skepticism about democracy promotion, particularly among Democratic voters.

In fact, democracy was not the primary goal of U.S. invasions in Afghanistan or Iraq, and elsewhere Bush has not matched strategy or consistency to his soaring rhetoric. Two leading political scientists, Francis Fukuyama and Michael McFaul, argue in a recent paper for the Stanley Foundation (" Should Democracy Be Promoted or Demoted?") that the policy could be carried out far more intelligently.

The promotion of freedom has long been a tenet of American foreign policy, they write, and should remain so: "No country in the world has benefited more from the worldwide advance of democracy than the United States." This isn't a question for the military -- force "is the rarest used and least effective way to promote democratic change abroad," Fukuyama and McFaul argue -- but of setting priorities, reorienting the bureaucracy and enlisting allies.

But they worry that Bush's failures will instead lead the next administration to give up on the idea. "The tragic result" of the mismatch between rhetoric and results, they write, is that "Americans are starting to view this goal as no longer desirable or attainable."
Hiatt makes a good point that the spreading of Democracy has been given a bad name by the Bushies (including Fukuyama, who was for using force to spread democracy before he was against it,) and it would be a shame if it was abandoned altogether by subsequent American presidents. A shame, yes, but also a constitutional imperative, since spreading democracy around the world is NOT the job of the American president, nor some tenet of manifest destiny that is to be revived in the American spirit. Americans are not the world's policeman, nor are we the world's daddy. Promoting democracy is one thing, spreading it is quite another. The preamble to the United States Constitution reads:
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty..."
The next two words, are "to ourselves."

Justin Raimondo, meanwhile, has declared the end of the Republican Party:

Endism" has been a favorite neoconservative theme over the years: every once in a while the neocons announce the death of some commonly assumed idea that the rest of us take for granted– during the 1950s, for example, they wrote the obituary of ideology itself, proclaiming that their own self-satisfied complacency was the apotheosis of human achievement. In the early 1990s, we heard all about the purported "End of History," similar to "the end of ideology," except extended to the four corners of the earth. No one thought it at all unusual or alarming when Irving Kristol welcomed Hegel and his contemporary doppelgänger into the pages of The National Interest, at the time the leading neocon theoretical journal devoted to foreign policy. More recently we have seen the implicit endism energizing the post-9/11 ideology of the official conservative movement, which has ended its long-standing defense of the Constitution, narrowly constructed, against the modern liberal "expansionist," or loose constructionist, view, which likens the original intent of the Framers to the primitive thoughts of Neanderthal man and avers that the Constitution and its meaning are always "evolving."

The rise of the surveillance state, the repeal of habeas corpus, the consolidation of a police-state apparatus that spies on Americans and foreigners at will – these post-9/11 assaults on constitutional government in America have all been adopted as holy writ by a thoroughly neoconized "conservative" movement, which these days is just an adjunct of the GOP. The Goldwater-fusionist devotion to decentralized power, the genuine fear of Big Government, the libertarian disdain for officialdom and its inherent inefficiencies have all been thrown overboard and a state-and-leader-worshipping cult of power installed in their place. As the favorite slogan of these post-9/11 Bizarro-cons puts it: Everything has changed. Including what used to be called "conservatism," which morphed rapidly into an inverted funhouse-mirror image of itself.

The neocons have been consistently wrong in their "endism," although this sorry record hasn't punctured their intellectual pretensions. The Grand Consensus of the 1950s, which saw the welfare-warfare state as the culmination and endpoint of Western civilization, was soon wrecked on the rocky shores of the 1960s, which gave birth to a popular rebellion against an unpopular foreign war and a thoroughgoing exposure and rejection of the government's war on domestic dissent.

The termination of History, announced by Francis Fukuyama in his famous 1992 essay, proved even more problematic, what with 9/11 and the subsequent Middle Eastern wars that promise to preoccupy us for decades to come. Instead of blending into the bureaucratic grayness of the Universal Homogenous State – as Fukuyama's inspiration, the philosopher Alexandre Kojève, characterized the "final form of human government" – the waters are roiled by powerful currents of nationalism and religiosity that threaten to unleash a global conflagration.

The implied end of constitutional government in America, as a matter of supposed necessity, may have been yet another case of premature burial. There are now powerful dissents coming from conservatives, including this pledge to uphold the Bill of Rights and "restore the Constitution's checks and balances as enshrined by the Founders," issued to all the GOP presidential candidates by a panel of right-wing leaders. Add to this the excitement generated among the younger set by the Ron Paul campaign – which is to antiwar conservatives what the Eugene McCarthy effort to take the White House was to an earlier generation of antiwar activists – and we have the makings of a full-scale rebellion on the Right. What Lew Rockwell calls "red-state fascism" is facing a significant challenge from within the conservative movement.

Having sacrificed everything – their devotion to less government, their traditionally prudent temperament, their general distrust of power – in order to follow the neocons off the Iraqi cliff, the ostensibly "conservative" wing of the Republican Party faces an electoral catastrophe. There is, consequently, a "surge" of skepticism in GOP ranks as the administration tries to tamp down Republican voices of protest in the Senate. The GOP caucus was supposed to be giving the White House until September, when Gen. David Petraeus is slated to give his much-vaunted progress report, but they aren't waiting to jump ship. First in the water is Sen. Richard Lugar, the GOP's foreign policy maven:

Ding Dong, is neoconservatism dead? I wouldn't count on it, but the political movement to implement it around the world, and to strip us here at home of the constitutional protections that would prevent that implementation, have been seriously damaged by the incompetence of the Bush administration.

Let's hope it doesn't make a comeback.

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posted by JReid @ 8:12 AM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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